Going Diaperless

In a previous post, I discussed my cloth-diapering experiences. But there are more options than just cloth vs. disposable. There is what is known as “elimination communication” (EC) or “baby potty-training,” among other names. I’ve had a very little experience with this, and it intrigues me. I think if I were to have another baby, I’d give it a fair try. It makes more sense to try to train a child to go potty from birth than it does to train a child to go in his diaper for the first 2-3 years of his life and then teach him to go in the potty. (Not saying it will be easy, but it does make sense… at least on paper.)

I’d heard of it when I was pregnant with my first child, and contemplated doing it, but, honestly, I didn’t do it because I thought people would think I was weird when they found out. I might have done it anyway, except my mom came for the first week after my son was born, and then my mother-in-law came the following two weeks; and then it seemed too late to start (not true), and it was easy to give excuses rather than put forth effort.Then when I was pregnant with my second child, I contemplated it again, but since my kids were just 19 months apart, I felt like I already had my hands full enough as it was! Besides, my older son was still in diapers, and it seemed weird to teach my younger son to go potty before training my older son, y’know?

Actually, I’d seen the results from “infant potty-training” even as a young child, but didn’t realize it. You’ve probably seen the same kinds of pictures that I have, of women in Africa or someplace with a naked baby in a sling or similar baby carrier. I remember thinking that that was disgusting and gross and dirty, believing that the baby must just pee and poop on the mom. Now I know that most likely the mommies recognized when their babies had to go, and let them go wherever was the normal spot (whether that was some sort of out-house or just a hole in the ground, or whatever).

When my baby was a couple of months old, , one of my email friends who had given birth just a few weeks before I did mentioned that she did EC, and “LOVED it!!” I got a bit more information from her, as well as encouragement, including that it was not too late to try it with my son. So I did. Sort of. That night when he woke up, I checked his (cloth) diaper and it was dry, so I took him to the bathroom and put him on the potty, and he went. I put his diaper back on, nursed him, and he went to sleep. I repeated that cycle however many times he woke up, and he stayed dry all night; this happened for several nights. (I now know that we probably should have had a little bowl or bucket for him to use in the middle of the night — it would have stopped a lot of the activity, including going from one room to another.) Daytime was more difficult, with all the activity from my older son, and I never did get “tuned into” Seth’s potty time during the day. Sometimes at night he protested, though, about being put on the potty instead of being put to the breast — I think that all the activity of getting his diaper off and walking to the bathroom, sitting him on the potty, walking back to the bedroom, putting the diaper back on, and then nursing was too much, and got him out of his good sleep rhythm. Instead of getting better at it, I dropped it completely because not too long after that, we moved and then we went to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving for several days, and I just didn’t do it.

While I know that all children are different, I wonder if the activity of getting him up to go potty contributed to his poor sleep habits and waking up so frequently in the middle of the night. My older son basically slept through the night from just a few months old, waking up to nurse (which I was able to drop about 10 months old), but my younger son rarely slept through the night until he was nearly two years old (although I was still nursing him, and once I weaned him and refused to let him nurse in the middle of the night, he stopped waking up, since there was no longer any point to it). However, I also wonder if his early potty experiences somehow helped encourage his early potty-training — he started climbing on the potty when he was 18 months old, and more recently has started taking his diapers off all the time, so I began the potty-training process a couple of months ago and he is now nearly potty-trained (I’m currently working on getting him to take off his underwear when he needs to go — and only when he needs to go) at two years old.

I’m still very much interested in the idea of EC, and think I would pursue it if I were to have another one, although I would definitely get more information — “knowledge is power,” after all! Some areas where I feel my knowledge or practice is deficient, or at least could have some benefit from experienced EC parents, are things like minimizing the amount of bustle in the middle of the night — if the baby is wearing foot-pajamas, then you’d have to pull both feet out of the PJs and then take off the diaper; but if he’s wearing a gown, then it might be awkward to hold it so that it doesn’t get wet. Also, what kind of diapers would be best, so that it doesn’t take very long to get the baby ready to potty? — or perhaps he should wear no diaper at all? — maybe just put him down on top of a couple of layers of flat diapers so that if he happens to wet the bed, he’ll get the diapers wet and not the bed, but then he’ll be ready to go that much quicker.

There is also the possibility of partially doing this. My sister did this with her two oldest children, starting when her older child (a girl) was about 7-9 months old. My sister realized that the baby was obviously having a bowel movement (she stopped playing, turned red in the face, grunted, etc.), and one day it dawned on her that she was standing there, waiting for her daughter to fill her diaper so she could change it, and that since she knew what the baby was doing, she could put her on the potty and let her do her business there, instead of in her diaper. So she did. And she did the same thing with her son when he was about the same age. While it was still some time before they were completely potty-trained (she didn’t hurry with it), they were already partially potty-trained before they were a year old — at least, they were used to sitting on the potty and using it for its intended purpose.


6 Responses

  1. I have dabbled in this with my son. When he was 4 months old, I held him over the toilet, and you could almost hear his sigh of relief as he peed and pooped into it immediately. Soon after, I got him a little potty and we adopted a “lazy EC” approach. I would put him on the potty at the times that he would most likely need it- after waking up and after eating. And 3 out of 4 times he would go. He is turning 2 tomorrow and in the last 12-18 months I have rarely changed dirty diapers- mostly he uses the toilet. He can now take off his pants and pullups and climb onto the toilet himself when he needs to go. He only initiates toileting for BMs though. He is still quite happy to use cloth or disposable diapers for most pees, unfortunately. I was really hoping he’d be fully out of diapers by this milestone.

    We would like to have another baby and I will defintely pursue EC more actively. I’m not sure I totally understand how nighttimes would work either so I’d also be very interested in hearing more about diaperless nighttime with newborns.

  2. This is something I would also try if we have another baby. 🙂

  3. I feel that some babies are simply very sensitive to their bodies, and rouse easily when they need to wee, whether in nappies or not.

    Night time EC – here’s my experiences – I hope they help!


  4. Tribalbaby — this is excellent! I’m going to bookmark your site for future reference. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  5. Thanks, Kathy! Have fun, it is just great to do.

  6. Very nice article. I’m discovering more about how to potty train my toddler from reading the info on your site, then I’ve ever did from the advice given to me by my own grandma. Hope it’s ok that I share this post on Digg?

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